Shell holds tight to shale basin in Argentina

April 24 (UPI) — The Vaca Muerta shale formation in Argentina has substantial growth potential remaining, Shell said Tuesday after it unloaded its downstream business.

For close to $1 billion in cash, Royal Dutch Shell said it was selling off everything from its retail service stations to its refinery in Buenos Aires to Raízen, the third largest energy company in Brazil. After the close, Shell will still have a footprint in the downstream, or refinery side, of the energy sector in Argentina.

“Raízen has already delivered significant value for us in Brazil and we will remain an important fuel supplier to Argentina under this deal,” John Abbott, the director of downstream activity for Shell, said in a statement.

Downstream refers to the refinery and processing side of the industry. Not included in the agreement with Raízen was Shell’s stake in the Vaca Muerta shale, one of the more promising prospects in the world.

Vaca Muerta, located in Neuquén province, is considered one of the best shale basins in Latin America. All told, the basin contains about 16 million barrels of oil and 308 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

“Shell sees substantial long-term growth potential in Argentina’s shale resources,” the company’s statement read.

Vaca Muerta has already drawn in some of the biggest energy companies in the world. Norwegian energy company Statoil expanded its footprint in November and French supermajor Total suggested last year it had the revenue stream necessary to move forward with the development of the Vaca Muerta shale.

Shell is on pace to slim down by shedding $30 billion from its portfolio. Shell’s Middle East subsidiary agreed last month to sell the entire capital in its Iraqi division to Japan’s Itochu Corp. for $406 million. The deal includes Shell’s 19.6 percent stake in the West Qurna 1 oil field in southern Iraq, one of the biggest in the world.

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